Philippines to lead bilateral exercises with US marines this week

Raffy Cabristante, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 02 2022 04:51 PM | Updated as of Oct 03 2022 03:06 PM

Philippine and American soldiers raise a high five during a joint exercise in Luzon in October 2017. United States Embassy in the Philippines/file
Philippine and American soldiers raise a high five during a joint exercise in Luzon in October 2017. United States Embassy in the Philippines/file

MANILA — The Philippines will be leading a bilateral military exercise with the United States this week.

In a statement, the Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) said it would begin the 6th iteration of its "Kamandag" exercises with the United States Armed Forces on Monday at the Philippine Navy Officers Club in Taguig City.

"Kamandag," an abbreviation for “Kaagapay Ng Mga Mandirigma ng Dagat," will be held in select areas throughout Luzon from Oct. 3 to 14.

PMC noted that this will be the first time military personnel from Japan and South Korea will join the said exercises, but only as observers.

It also said the exercises aim to "enhance bilateral cooperation and interoperability among participating forces in the conduct of combined tactical operations that focus on capacitating the Marine Amphibious Ready Unit and enhancing their capabilities in Special Operations, Coastal Defense Capability, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response (HADR) Operations, and Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Operations."

At the kickoff ceremony, Philippine Navy Acting Flag Officer in Command Rear Admiral Caesar Bernard Valencia said the Kamandag Exercises aims to strengthen the Philippines' ties with its allies.

“The last exercise was not really conducted the way we want it to be [because of the COVID-19 pandemic]. This is a bigger exercise compared to what we did last year. There are a lot of marine corps participating this year. Last year was just virtual and tabletop exercises,” he added.

Last year, participants were drastically reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the activities were also held virtually.

But this year, events will be done face-to-face.

“The purpose of participating in the exercise for the Japanese side is to enhance our relationship and disaster relief capabilities to foster our mutual understanding and interoperability. That’s the reason why we are here,” JGSDF’s Shinsuke Miyamoto said in Japanese.

For its part, the US Marine Corps said it would deploy 5,500 of its personnel to join the exercises, with the Okinawa, Japan-based 3rd Marine Division to exercise command and control.

The Marine Corps also said the exercises would not only strengthen the military ties between the US and the Philippines, but also with Japan.

“These exercises will allow our forces to strengthen interoperability and readiness to ensure we are prepared to rapidly respond to crisis throughout the Indo-Pacific," Third Marine Division commander MGen. Jay Bargeron said in a separate statement.

The Philippines and the US have a mutual defense treaty (MDT) signed in 1951, which states that both nations are to defend each other in case of an armed attack by a third-party country.

The 2 countries’ armed forces hold a number of joint exercises and trainings annually, including the Kamandag and Balikatan.

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